COLUMBIA — The $13.92 million construction project on Route 763, which has run into some delay, is frustrating motorists who face the struggles of navigating around it each day.
Ryan Dixon, a clerk for the Petro Mart at 3850 Range Line St., said he constantly hears customers complaining about the confusion and inconvenience the construction causes.
“At least one or two people a day will ask, ‘When is it going to be done?', ‘How do you get in this place?', ‘Does it hurt your business?'” Dixon said. “I don’t think anybody knows when it will be done.”
The construction began in April 2008, with plans of alleviating traffic and making travel safer for drivers, bikers and pedestrians. The project is widening 2.8 miles of Route 763 to four lanes instead of two.
Chuck Sullivan, resident engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation project, said the construction firm hired for the widening was given an extension beyond the original completion date of Aug. 1 of this year.
Certain sections of the road could not be worked on as planned because proper utilities weren’t in place, Sullivan said. This delayed the contractor, Lehman Construction of California, Mo.
According to Sullivan, Connecting existing utility services with new services has to be done in phases, which takes a lot of time.
“The issue is that the existing service has to be moved or connected to the new service.”
Sullivan said there is not a set date for completion, but it will be done this year.
“The end of October to mid-November is what we are shooting for, but it will be done by the end of this year for sure,” he said.
Sullivan said there have been no other problems delaying the construction and that the cost is remaining well within the budget.
The area itself is high-volume and commercial, which contributes to crowding, Sullivan said.
“We are maintaining access to everyone we can," he said. "It is a work in progress and a time consuming process.”
In addition to widening Route 763 from two to four lanes, the project includes a 14-foot median, bike lanes and two 7-foot shoulders. Six-foot sidewalks will also be included on both sides of Route 763.
The city has plans of extending bike and walk lanes on Range Line Street from Big Bear Boulevard to Business Loop 70.
Randy Martin and Bob Lehman have been working on traffic lights for the new roads for the past year. Bob Lehman, who is the brother of Kenneth Lehman, the project’s contractor, has been working for Lehman Construction since 2000.
Bob Lehman said this is the biggest project the company has ever worked on and believes the bike lanes will prove popular.
"Everybody around here likes their bicycles," he said.
Martin, who has been working for Lehman Construction since February, said tight conditions for workers sometimes make him nervous for his safety.
"A lot of people don't realize we are just trying to get it done,” he said. “There are a lot of impatient people. When all is said and done it will be a lot better for everybody."
Dixon said the benefits after the completion are worth waiting for.
"It's going to be a lot better when it's done, and we will be a lot busier when it's done," he said.
Sullivan said a speed study would likely be conducted once construction has ended in order to determine whether to change the 45 mph speed.